Oakland’s The Shanghai’s are audio Fun Dip for your soul. Imagine yourself as that stiff, flavorless dipstick that comes separated from the rest of the party in a standard Fun Dip packet. You put on some Shanghai’s records, bounce around the room for a while and suddenly you’re covered with that sweet, colorful sugary goodness for the entire neighborhood to enjoy. You’re a changed human being after hearing The Shanghais music whether you know it or not. They play fast, loud, catchy, beautifully simplistic Ramones-y punk songs. Yes, indeed the skies are a little brighter, those kids playing outside the bedroom window aren’t so loud, and the world just may be okay for a little while longer.
Interview by J Castro
Let’s begin with introductions. Who’s all in this outfit and what do you all do to keep the Shanghais rolling?
NATALIE: We have Dani on guitar, Laura on drums, Trevor on bass, and me (Natalie) on lead vocals. Well, we have been playing pretty consistently since we started out two years ago. We just practice when we can, hang out when we can, and go to as many shows as we can.
How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
NATALIE: Dani and I were friends years ago when we both lived in Philadelphia. When I relocated to the Bay a couple years after she did, we reconnected. She’d always played in such rad bands so I was really hoping she’d want to do a girl group with me, and she did! Laura was the drummer of one of the coolest girl bands in the Bay, Dirty Cupcakes. When they broke up we knew we had to get her. We are all Pookie & the Poodlez fans so we were super excited when Trevor joined us on bass after our (totally awesome) first bass player, Devin, moved to Minnesota. He’s just one of the girls.
Your music has been compared to bands like The Ramones and Nikki and The Corvettes. Music that has been scrutinized for its simplicity yet remains highly influential. If music like that is so simple, why do you think it’s so hard to do well?
NATALIE: Hmm, I mean, to me, a great pop song is a great pop song, regardless of the complexity of the arrangement or the guitar solo. I think its truly understanding that it’s pop aesthetic that makes a difference. And don’t try too hard, which is, I guess, easier said than done.
You guys just released a new EP on the Italian label Surfin Ki Records. How did you hook up with those fine folks?
NATALIE: Our friend Dan Shaw made a funny music video for our song “Too Cool to Cry” when it came out last summer on the No Rules! No Fun compilation. My friend Morten Henricksen really dug it and passed it on to Carlo at Surfin’ Ki. We lucked out and Carlo emailed us saying he loved the song and wanted to release a 7” with 4 new songs. It was a good surprise for sure.
And speaking of your new EP, you did a video for the first song “Sick of You”. Can you tell us a bit about it and did you enjoy the process of making it?
NATALIE: Videos are ridiculously fun to make. We had such a good time with the first one that we couldn’t wait to make another with Dan Shaw. As a director, he definitely makes the process incredibly low on the pressure and high on the fun. This time around we decided to go on a picnic, get bullied by some jerks, and then explode them with Rock N’ Roll. It took us only a few hours to shoot it at Mosswood Park in Oakland and we were so stoked when that dog ended up in the final video.
In the video a bunch of evildoers come and ruin your picnic. In the scuffle, you find your instruments. It reminds me of this quote I read about how elitist Prom Queens and bully Quarterbacks rarely end up doing anything cool. They function only to fire up and drive the geeky kids to creative or scientific greatness. Do you agree with that philosophy?
NATALIE: Of course I want to say yes! Weirdoes rule, because they do! And though I’ve seen a lot of elitist prom queens achieve some creative and scientific greatness and some weirdoes do nothing, I do think the idea of the late bloomer blowing everyone away is very romantic.
I noticed on both of your EP’s that the subject of your songs tends to revolve around relationships. Is it a conscious choice not to write about social or political issues? Even The Ramones finally broke down and did “Bonzo Goes To Bitburg” after all.
NATALIE: Ha ha, hey man, we write what we know! And the news is a huge bummer. I guess we do try to keep it light and a little laughable. It’s just a coincidence that everything we think is light and laughable seems to revolve around boys. And you’re right about the Ramones. They did get mildly political on their like 11th album J since we are only on our second EP I think we still have some good “pop for pop’s sake” years left, haha!
When starting out, is this the sound you all had imagined in your heads for The Shanghais or once you got going did it take on a life of its own?
NATALIE: We knew we wanted a girl group sound with lots of harmonies, lots of hooks. Our original motto was “everybody sings!” The first song we learned together was a cover of the Fabulettes “Try the Worryin’ Way.” But once we started playing it took on a life of it’s own. We wanted to keep the girl group aesthetic but play faster, faster, faster! So we did.
Where can people go to hear Shanghai’s music?
What looms on the horizon for The Shanghai’s, any tours or LP’s in the works?NATALIE: We are just riding the wave, waiting to see what opportunities come our way and hoping to sell some 7”s.